The HGTV-perfect home mindset causes buyers to bypass great deals and solid homes

by Todd Lewys
These days, REALTORS® find themselves fighting an epidemic of sorts. That epidemic is clients — right from first-time buyers to those looking to acquire a high-end home — looking for HGTV-perfect homes.
“It’s starting to get a bit ridiculous,” said REALTOR® Hannon Bell. “I’m seeing people going through a perfectly good home that’s in move-in condition, offering well under list price because they say it needs to be extensively renovated. They say they’ll have to pull out the walls to open up the home and re-do the kitchen. And that’s only the start of what they think they need to do.”
Bell puts the blame squarely on the host of renovation/re-make shows that air on HGTV and other channels.
“Those programs promote what I call a ‘Home Depot mindset’ — people now want everything to be state-of-the-art in their home in terms of style and technology,” he said. “It’s a frustrating attitude to say the least, because people are by-passing a lot of good, solid homes because they don’t look just right. 
“It’s important to look beyond cosmetics,” added Bell. “Do that, and you can find yourself a wonderful solid home that can be updated over time.”
REALTOR® Liz Taylor said the key to curing buyers of HGTV fever is education. “One of the first things I do is pull up homes in their price range and show them what they look like inside and out,” she said. “At the same time, I tell them that no home is 100 per cent perfect, knowing that many people have been brainwashed by TV shows. I try to deal with their expectations before we go to look at homes so that clients are realistic when I’m showing homes to them.”
In many cases, added Taylor, first-time buyers have the highest expectations.
“The truth of the matter is that they haven’t seen many homes, so they just don’t know what to expect. Still, because they’ve seen the renovation shows, the tendency is to want it all now. With that in mind, I keep their expectations low from the get-go so they don’t say, ‘that’s all you get?’”
Long-time REALTOR® Lori Thorsteinson agreed that education is the key to keeping buyers’ expectations realistic. 
“Especially with first-time buyers, I lead them through the process,” she said. “You have to remember that most of these twentysomethings were raised with a remote control in their hand, and that they are of the mindset that they want to get everything quickly. That’s why it’s important to take them out and show them a lot of homes so they can get a feel for the market. Once they see what they can get, they’re better equipped to make their own decision.”
That said, it’s necessary for a REALTOR® to act as a steadying influence through the buying process, according to Taylor.
“We’re a buyer’s first point of information, so we should know what different things would cost, such as putting in a driveway, putting on new shingles or replacing an aging furnace with a new high-efficient model,” she said. “As REALTORS®, our job is to provide our clients with the information they need to get the home that they want — a home that’s affordable, and that’s solid and straight.”
She added that buyers have to avoid temptation that comes in the form of instant gratification. “Patience is the key. If a home is solid and livable, buyers can make do until they can afford to upgrade the home. In the meantime, a little paint here and some flooring there can go a long way.”
Thorsteinson said buyers must defer to REALTORS®, who have the know-how and contacts to get them into a solid home that they can make their own over time. “Say a home is priced right, but needs windows,” she said. “Because I have all kinds of contacts, I can get you a deal on some new windows. Or, I can find you a lower-priced ‘grandma and grandpa’s’ house that’s been well-maintained, but needs updating. By paying less for a good home, you can then take the money you saved to do the kitchen floor or reface the cabinets, or maybe update the bathroom.”
She said the key, in the final analysis, is to look beyond a home’s cosmetic deficiencies, and to see its potential. “You have to look beyond paint colours and other minor flaws. As long as a home has good bones you can update it over time,” she added. “You’ll not only have a home that you’ll enjoy, but one that you can make money on when it comes time to sell.”